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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Keith Regan, a candidate for the Maui County Council’s Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu District. There are four other candidates, Alika Atay, Joseph Blackburn, Dane Kane and Hana Steel.
Name: Keith Regan
Office seeking: Maui County Council, Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu seat
Occupation: Maui County managing director
Community organizations/prior offices held: Cub Scouts Pack 40, immediate past cubmaster; Japanese Cultural Society of Maui, Board member and past president; Kiwanis International, past president and past lieutenant governor for Division 22; 100 Men Who Care, Maui Chapter, founder; Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation, past board member; Haleakala Waldorf School, past board member; American Heart Association, Maui Division, past board chairman; Boy Scouts of America, Maui County Council board member; Maui Young Business Roundtable, past director, past president; Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development Council, past director
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 44
Place of residence: Wailuku
Campaign website: www.regan2016.com
1. This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the County Council is run?
We must focus on developing policy that is based on common sense, that is forward-thinking, that incorporates and considers new ideas and most importantly that cuts through the bureaucracy that has negatively impacted our community for much too long.
The current Council budgeting process is time consuming, cumbersome, inefficient and places the legislative process on hold for months putting important policy issues on the back burner. This is unacceptable and it must stop. This is one of the reasons I have been a proponent of moving away from the existing annual budgeting process to a more progressive biennial budget for the county.
We must also address the poor attendance by the general public at both regular Council meetings and committee meetings. The timing of these meetings may be the issue. Meetings must be more accessible to the public at times that are convenient to the public. I would propose starting with regular Council meetings and moving these to late afternoon or early evening.
Finally, an annual audit of the Maui County Council’s operations is needed. Presently, the Council’s appointed auditor has focused solely on the executive branch but the legislative branch should be held equally accountable to our taxpayers.
2. Should your county implement a 0.5 percent GET surcharge? If so, for what purpose?
No, I do not presently support increasing the GET by 0.5 percent. Hawaii’s cost of living is already too high and our people are struggling to make ends meet. Because the GET also taxes food and other basic necessities, we would be unfairly impacting those who could least afford it. It is not uncommon to find people working two or three jobs due to high rents, fuel costs and the “paradise tax” that all of us have to deal with because of shipping. Adding an increase, at this time, given the current regressive nature of the GET, would cause too much hardship for our community.
3. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
Growing the economy can be done in conjunction with protecting our limited environmental resources. I don’t see it as an either/or kind of decision. With the impending closing of both Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar and Makena Beach and Golf Resort, it is now more important than ever that we look at other emerging industries and attract them to this county. Industries such as clean energy, technology and film, which don’t heavily impact our environment, should be cultivated and encouraged through good policy.
Protecting our environment will continue to be one of my priorities. We need to rely less on fossil fuels and increase the availability of renewable energy. We must acquire open space, in key locations, along our shoreline to maintain this open space in perpetuity for current and future generations to enjoy.
4. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
There are a number of steps we may take to strengthen police accountability. One way, which I have been involved in, is to support Maui Police Department’s plans to purchase and deploy officer-worn body cameras. These body-worn cameras have been proven to help improve the high-quality public service expected of our police officers. In addition, I would support expanding training programs designed specifically to support and educate our officers on new techniques and strategies pertaining to public interaction and public engagement.
5. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
Rather than reinventing the wheel, I would research such laws that are in place in the 49 other states and see how we can modify Hawaii’s laws.
6. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
The fees currently charged by the County of Maui are reasonable, considering the time and monies expended to have public employees collect the requested information and provide copies to the requester. Eliminating the fee would simply shift the burden of cost to all taxpayers since public employees would still be required to conduct the necessary research and provide copies of the requested information.
One way that we may be able to increase access to public records would be to place more records online. Other jurisdictions across the nation have expanded the amount of data available to the public such as expenditures, checks written, funds received and detailed budget information that users are able to drill down into. I would support efforts to expand in this direction in order to increase transparency and openness in our local government.
7. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
As managing director, I advocated for use of social media to improve communication with residents by providing another venue to share and receive updated information. We’ve improved the county’s website, making it user friendly and intuitive, and helped to develop and launched the County of Maui’s first citizen-centric, free interactive app called COMConnect.
To boost public input and engagement, I’d advocate to have County Council regular meetings held in the evenings rather than in the mornings or early afternoons. The current schedule makes it convenient for Council members but inconvenient for the general public. The legislative process was established so that the public would have the ability to provide input and become involved in the policy discussions that may impact their lives.
Having the full Council meetings in the evenings may not draw a huge crowd in the Council Chambers, but having them scheduled during the day almost ensures many empty seats. Daytime meetings may inadvertently be sending our hard-working local residents a signal that their participation is neither encouraged nor sought. That’s exactly the wrong signal to be sending those to whom we need to be most accountable – our constituents who pay the bills and elect the Council.
8. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Two related issues prevalent in our community are the shortage of affordable housing and homelessness. Demand for housing far outpaces supply and has resulted in median home prices continuing to climb, putting the dream of home ownership out of reach for many.
We’re also faced with a shortage of affordable rentals due to the lack of supply and high demand for rentals.
Warned by unbiased experts that their proposed bills would not spur the development of affordable housing, but discourage it, the Council chose to pass these bills. As the experts predicted, the development of affordable housing abruptly stopped.
We must encourage, not discourage, the creation of various workforce housing options. Let’s explore public-private partnerships, leverage our current affordable housing fund to develop more affordable rentals, and remove legislative barriers that exacerbate this problem. Let’s increase density where density makes sense, and engage landowners with stalled projects to determine if the County may be able to help get the projects moving again.
By taking a collaborative approach, we’ll be able to build reasonably priced market units for sale and rent that will meet our workforce housing needs.